EU Member states split over climate change strategy

Some countries fear premature commitments amid disagreement over money to development countries. European Union member states are struggling to agree a common strategy for the UN climate conference in Copenhagen says The European Voice.

Agreement on money for developing countries remains distant as the EU institutions gear up for a flurry of activity, including meetings of finance ministers next Tuesday (20 October) and environment ministers next Wednesday (21 October), and ahead of the European summit on 29-30 October.

Member states that argue for a finance ministers’ endorsement of specific amounts on Tuesday are countered by others that fear any commitment in numbers would be premature ahead of the Copenhagen negotiations in December.
Adaptation costs

The European Commission estimates that developing countries will need €100 billion each year by 2020 to adapt to unstoppable climate change and to steer their economies off a polluting path. The Commission puts the EU’s fair share of this amount between €2bn-15bn each year, a set of figures condemned as too low at UN talks in Bangkok earlier this month.

A draft communiqué dated 12 October and prepared for the finance ministers’ meeting suggests that they may hold back from specifying figures, since it does not put any figure on the EU’s contribution. There is not yet any consensus even on mentioning the scale of public funds required from all rich countries, estimated to be €22bn-50bn each year by 2020. One possible compromise is that ministers may note the Commission’s advice without endorsing it.

A similar divide is evident over when funding should start. Some countries, including Denmark and the Netherlands, are keen to spell out the EU’s readiness to provide support of somewhere between €0.5bn-2.1bn before 2012, while a majority of member states prefer a vaguer promise that the EU will do its “fair share”.
Optimistic Commission

The Commission remains optimistic about an agreement. Stavros Dimas, the European commissioner for the environment, is predicting that EU leaders will agree on figures at the October summit. Asked whether there would be a firm commitment on finance, he said, “yes…I think that they will provide the numbers, because it is the best way to advance the negotiations”.

Dimas told European Voice that the EU was united on substance. Countries do not have “an objection to the necessity of providing money for financing adaptation and mitigation in developing countries”, he said. “It is a matter of tactics rather than substance. They will agree.”

An agreement will be made easier by a deal to share the cost of international climate finance between the EU member states. This remains a live issue, with eastern member states pressing for compensation from the EU’s richer members to meet their international obligations.

On Monday (19 October) the European Parliament’s environment committee will vote for resources on climate change “to be on a similar scale as was needed to tackle the current financial crisis”.

Divisions have also surfaced about the mechanisms to combat climate change. Denmark, hosting the UN talks, wants strong language on the EU’s readiness to reduce its emissions by 30%, which the EU has already promised if there is an agreement in Copenhagen. Some new member states prefer vaguer wording. There is also an east-west divide over what to do with vast amounts of surplus credits that former Communist countries have accumulated so far.
German uncertainty

Discussions over Germany’s new coalition government leave some uncertainty about the position of Europe’s biggest economy. Sigmar Gabriel, the outgoing environment minister and a member of the Social Democratic Party, will represent his country at the Wednesday meeting.

The secretary of state for the finance ministry will represent Germany at the meeting of finance ministers in Luxembourg on 20 October. Tanja Gönner of the CDU party is tipped to be Germany’s next environment minister.

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